‘Stranger Things’ Back With a Bang

Season two starts on Netflix, with Eleven in hiding and Paul Reiser playing a creepy character

The new season of Stranger Things went live on Netflix Friday, October 27, with new misadventures for Will, Mike, Dustin, Lucas, Eleven and the rest of the gang. The second season, called Stranger Things 2, like a movie sequel, has a new character in Paul Reiser’s Dr. Owens.

We spoke with Reiser recently about his role. He noted how the Duffer brothers, who created the show, constantly thought of Reiser’s Carter Burke character from Aliens, a shady guy doing shady work for a shady company, when it came to a new character. They referred to the Dr. Owens character as “Paul Reiser,” so when it came time to cast the role, they naturally reached out to that actor.

“That was the easiest yes,” said Reiser. “I met with them a few days after the first season dropped. Everybody was talking about it. I’d seen the first couple episodes and thought it was great.”

The series’ homage to ‘80s fantasy blockbusters is well known. The New York Times calls Stranger Things “the spiritual sequel” to E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and describes it as “a scavenged together pastiche of Spielbergian sci-fi laced with 1980s horror themes.” The new season, which is comprised of nine episodes, starts off just before Halloween in 1984. Eleven is still in hiding.

While grown-up stars Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine appeared to be a nod to the ‘80s-movies trappings of season one, another movie star from days of yore, Sean Astin, pops up in season two. The Times described season two as “mostly—though enjoyably—familiar.”

Reiser’s Dr. Owens is a government guy brought in to clean up the mess that Modine’s character made in the first season. Reiser said it was a fun, bedeviling role to play. “Winona Ryder looked at me like, you’re just the devil,” he said. “What’s fun is, from the beginning, you don’t know what side of the fence this guy is on. They didn’t tell me either, from the beginning.”

Reiser says Stranger Things represents family viewing, increasingly a rarity in an era when most everyone has their own screen. “It’s such an old phrase, fun for the whole family,” he said. “But it actually is. There are so few shows we watch as a family. That activity no longer exists.”

The veteran actor gives the Duffer brothers, Matt and Ross, high marks for their creativity. “These guys are so smart,” he said. “They’re unaffected, non-showbizzy enthusiasts. They’re just cinema enthusiasts.”

He describes the brothers as the grown-up version of boys who would make movies with a camera and their toys. “They didn’t create the show because they thought it would be a moneymaker at all,” said Reiser. “It was, what would we want to see? And that’s the best place to come from.”